Life Philosophy: The North Carolina State Motto

My wife and I were sitting with our 5-year-old son and going over his US states flash cards.

When we flipped the card for North Carolina, my wife read their motto.

To be, rather than to seem.

Or, for you Latin lovers: Esse Quam Videri. Don’t ask me how to say that.

It was one of those moments when you feel you’ve heard a whole sermon in 2 seconds.


This motto seems like the opposite of our society.

Recently I was working out with a friend at a public gym. We were about half way through, sweat dripping, lungs pumping, when a girl walked in across the room and sat down in front of a mirror. She sat for a minute and then stood. I noticed in my peripheral that she wasn’t moving. When I looked over she had her hip popped to the side and her phone lifted for a selfie. She stood like this for probably 2 minutes.

A few more seconds passed and she lifted her bag to her shoulder and walked out of the room. I can only hope she worked out before or after that photo shoot. Even if she did, the purpose of her visit to this room was to get the picture of herself at the gym. To seem, rather than to be.

Seeming is the shortcut, the cheap way, the empty way, and it almost never leads to the recognition you crave. When it does, the recognition is quick and cheap. On the other hand, sleep is sweet when you focus on being and let the seeming take care of itself. No one has to know you’ve done well if you know for yourself. And the inverse is true. If you know you haven’t done well, no amount of praise from others will give you peace.

I’d rather be the kind of person who shows up with quiet results than the person who announces their method but never has anything to show for it.

What Makes a Good Impression?

Think of how many different kinds of impressions we try to leave on people. We’d like for them to think we’re:

  • Attractive
  • Smart
  • Fit
  • Rich
  • Cool
  • Stylish
  • Popular
  • Successful
  • Experienced
  • Creative
  • Driven

These are all distractions. The only 2 impressions that matter, especially at the beginning, are:

  • Kindness
  • Interest in Me

When you feel these two things, you instantly want to be friends with a person, but if these are missing, none of the others matter.

People care about themselves more than they care about you, so when you talk about their lives you are automatically talking about their favorite subject. All that interest you craved from them appears like a rabbit out of a hat.

Remember that next time you’re desperate to make a good impression.